That’s why we should never underestimate the power of multi-facetted influences.

There are plenty of examples of integration that should get more publicity and we should exploit all their potential. It should constitute a major strategy and investment as a model of how the most disparate people can positively interact. Freedom of speech and choice has contributed considerably to this, but I despise the spineless racist and class distinction heritage of our British self-righteous, stiff-upper-lip, politically ‘correct’ society and the way it surreptitiously seeps into our psyche through the media. Whatever happened to objective and insightful journalism? I listened to an interview between a respected political broadcaster for BBC radio and a prominent Muslim leader. The leader said with such insistent nonchalance, as if we’re all accepting and pre-disposed to this ‘truth,’ that “Muslims are oppressed in this country.” Well, he has his right to that view but I challenge him to show me all these oppressed and marginalised Muslims. Anywhere in the UK - show me just how oppressed they are. Come on, please, I’d love to meet them. Yet this claim remained completely unchallenged by the BBC broadcaster, since it was a politically sensitive time to be controversial towards the Muslim community. And his interviewee didn’t know that? So, was that a true expression of what faces Muslims in this country? Was that constructive? Was it a valid point that helped us to get real about interaction and integration? Was that conducive to acknowledging the true opportunities facing all UK communities? Or was it likely to reinforce polarised factions? I thought we had a law against that now. I’m not against him saying it. I’m against him getting away with it, unchallenged. I’m getting at the broadcaster more than the Muslim speaker. His complacent, cosseting air of superiority was just as crass as the crude propaganda. There seems to be a strong Eastern European contingency where I live, too. You only have to think of the wars, organised crime, trafficking and prostitution etc. These people have astonishing empowering experiences to share on these issues. But look at the difference between say young Russian women and British. The stereotypes of poor little oppressed women, living in hovels with their parents and grand parents, drinking litres of Vodka at a time fly out of the window. They’re highly intelligent, well educated and qualified, have amazing work ethics and experience. They’re often stunningly beautiful without a titanic ego to boost a shallow personality and can hold down a serious philosophical conversation, in a club on a Saturday night, without being compelled to show their tits and arse, throw up, or kick holes out of their abusive boyfriend’s attacker in the middle of Peter Street, Manchester at three am in the morning. Russian woman are well wise to chauvinists. I kind of resent the term integration, in a way, as if we are incapable of accepting different perspectives than ours that don’t conflict with human rights. Those who can’t accept differences, from any background, need to see how lazy-minded and weak that is. How detrimental that is. How unrealistic that is. Schools have tried to address diversity, more than in previous generations, but there is still a drive for separate schools. Raise the racism card folks. How can we blame them when someone drunk leaving a city centre club at three am on a Sunday morning will give someone of a different race a good kicking for fun, go and buy a kebab from someone of the same nationality, won’t give a shit what race the taxi driver is so long as they can get home, (though, the driver has to endure a load of verbal for their fare) and no matter what the origin of his drug supplier, he’ll sit watching telly with him? It takes much more than business transactions to respect diversity, but it has to be mutual. Seems we’re all up for those, though, no matter what colour your skin, what country your parents came from, or how much we hate each other, your money’s always good. I’m not against owning land and property or against someone loving the land where they were born. But what is it that you love? Why is it that most people love the country they were born and raised in? Is it the geographical country? Your government? Your religion? Or is it the way people treat you and the lovely things or environment you enjoy? Is it comfort? Is it lazymindedness? I don’t know. Even where things are bad people tend to do that and wish they could change things. And many people with parents of foreign descent will feel that about the UK, when comparing it to the land of their parents. I can wax lyrical over all the things I adore about the UK. The majestic mountains, refreshing green hills and valleys, streams, moors, nooks and crannies; all

the dah-de-dah about the varied landscapes and nature of Scotland, all of Ireland, Wales and England; the rich diversity and advancement of culture, education, history and art; its progressive media taking us to every corner of the world. If I started, I’d never stop, so I won’t. We take so much for granted, but how amazing that people got off their arses and gave us this. And it does feel like home, when I return from abroad. It is more than my familiarity with the language and the environment. It has nothing to do with my history; maybe a little to do with my relationships, though I don’t need to be here permanently to sustain them. Look how many people are living over here, far away from people they love. But recently, almost everywhere I go, in conversations with all my friends and contacts, even with people I don’t know, they are quick to say how much they hate this country at the moment. How sick of being ripped off they are. And that’s people who were previously ok living in rip-off Britain. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you are – nobody but nobody likes being ripped off. Unprecedented numbers have emigrated or are contemplating it as soon as they can get their act together. Many who have moved say they’d never return even if things improved. There have been numerous media assertions that the credit crunch has persuaded many Britons to holiday at home in the UK, where it’s cheaper! They’ve obviously never holidayed in the UK and don’t even bother to research their news. They’re either being paid to boost the ailing economy, or they like spending twice as much as they would to go abroad. This is a beautiful country but tourism is part of the same rip-off culture. They must think ‘put everything up so no one can afford it except the rich, then the rich will be the only ones that can stick it here in the end and we’ll be a country full of rich people (who all live abroad anyway). And we’ll import the poor people to run the menial tasks. Nah, that’d never work. Far too Mugabe, that. Well, there are some things we could still rightly be proud of, if we preserve what we have left. If we rewarded and promoted the good and common aspirations of all cultures and positive exchanges here and abroad, couldn’t we feel better about our entire planet without leaving it to David Attenborough, Michael Palin and Bruce Parry to fly the flag? That’s just naïve, some will say, but positive interactions happen in small ways everyday, everywhere. Our society is heading for a crash because it fails to have a level and solid substructure to work from. The major inner cities seem to cope better with diversity; you cannot walk any street without seeing it, which is great. There’s a whole history of it. But you don’t have to travel many miles outside of any city to find strong excluding ethnic communities, or ingrained in-bred homophobic attitudes. This is what we seem to be clinging on to as if it’s the only kind of stability and identity we have left. But it isn’t stability, it is inverted anarchy. It’s survival. We’re all under siege. Why do we prefer this to the prospect of a cohesive multi-ethnic community? Because we’re convinced that our identity depends upon national and patriotic exclusivity. Fascism with another face. White or black, fascism is still alive and kicking today in the UK. Despite all the documented knowledge we have of the Nazi era, we have learned nothing. It is selective ignorance, though. Danger and suspicion is on the increase, sure. Personal and national security is at a premium but when I travel on a train or bus or plane, I think, ‘we’re all total strangers here and no-one speaks to each other,’ then, I look at them individually and think, ‘…if this vehicle crashed, you might save my life, or I might save yours, and when it’s all over we may feel better about each other and be glad we were there for each other.’ My point is this: we shouldn’t be ‘accommodating’ other ethnic groups; we should be one global community, but as long as we’ve decided that is unrealistic and we glorify things that prevent it, how can we ever aim for it? People are naturally afraid of chaos but that’s what we have already. We are well capable of letting people be who they want to be and live together without losing our identity; if that identity is a matter of personal choice in a climate of mutual respect, then it was never in danger. That would be a stronger society. It’s only self-seeking liars and cheats, power-hungry fear-mongers, that don’t want it. So how come oppressors get to have their way at everyone else’s expense? If it’s so easy to let bigots have their way, why don’t we have a stab at giving ourselves a chance? We surely outnumber them. We vote for them (well, a third of the

population does). Why can’t we get this right? Ok. I haven’t just been hit with the reality stick and woke up to the fact this world is a cruel and aggressive place. And I haven’t just emerged from a pot den wearing flowers in my hair with the ‘Ban The Bomb’ and ‘Om’ logos tattooed on my eyelids. There is very little reasonable action that can be taken with ardent megalomaniacs, but why do we employ mentally unsound predators in our ‘civilised’ society to make us ill for their gain? Why do we give them the power? Well, it’s simply down to this simple dynamic: Those who care more will always be at the mercy of those who care less. In all areas of social, political and institutionalised denial, we have to overturn this fundamental principle. The only way to achieve this is to reassess what we regard and reward as strength and weakness. ___

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